What to watch for in Kansas State’s matchup with UCLA

Kickoff: 8 p.m. CT at Chase Field in Phoenix, Ariz.


Line: Kansas State is favored by 6 points.

AP poll: Kansas State and UCLA are both unranked

Sagarin ratings: Kansas State is 35th, UCLA is 52nd.

Coaches: Kansas State’s Bill Snyder is 209-110 in his 26th season with an 8-10 bowl record. UCLA recently hired Chip Kelly as head coach. However, interim coach Jedd Fisch will coach the bowl game after Jim Mora Jr. was fired.

Bowl records: Kansas State is 8-12, UCLA is 16-18-1.

Series: UCLA leads the all-time bowl series 2-1, and beat Kansas State in their most recent matchup in the Alamo Bowl 40-35 in 2015.

Kansas State had expectations heading into the year after bringing back almost the entire offense. Unfortunately, the Wildcats struggled mightily to open the season, losing three of its first four Power Five games. The only win was over Baylor.

The next win – against Kansas – wasn’t particularly impressive. However, things got a little better when Skylar Thompson started after Alex Delton and Jesse Ertz went out. He led wins over Oklahoma State and Iowa State to close out the year.

The Bruins’ season comes down to one name: Josh Rosen. Despite struggling with injuries in one game and missing another, Rosen threw for 3,756 yards and 26 touchdowns for a desperate Bruins team.

Rosen threw for 400 yards on four separate occasions. He was one of the most productive quarterbacks in America every week. Unfortunately, the rest of his team wasn’t very good. Even worse, the Bruins will be without Rosen – and fired head coach Jim Mora Jr. – for the bowl game.

Kansas State runs one of the most old-school offenses in college football – and often can’t be stopped. The Wildcats focus on the run with both the quarterback and running back. However, Thompson brings slightly more passing ability.

Wide receiver Byron Pringle and cornerback D.J. Reed also bring dynamic ability in the return game. Don’t expect Kansas State to make many mistakes. In fact, the Wildcats are waiting on  you to make mistakes.

When Rosen is out, there isn’t much offense to speak of. UCLA managed just 17 points against a weak Utah team when Rosen missed the game. It will be interesting whether Chip Kelly is able to have any influence on the decisions

However, it will come down to whether backup Devon Modster plays well. No UCLA running back hit even 600 rushing yards. It’s unlikely something that dramatic changes in the next few days.

Rosen being out puts a real damper on this game. Instead, it should be the Bill Snyder show. Expect him to hold onto the ball and wait for UCLA to make mistakes.

UCLA will still sling the ball around, but it will be with far worse efficiency. Modster only has 45 career pass attempts to his name, so it’s unlikely he’ll be able to get much going against a good Kansas State defense.

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